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2011 Position Review, presented by Giant Eagle

Posted Feb 7, 2012

Phil Dawson was once referred to by Joshua Cribbs as Old Faithful and he lived up to that reputation during the 2011 season.

Overview:

The Browns special teams unit underwent a great deal of change during the 2011 season.

In addition to working with a first-year coordinator in Chris Tabor, the Browns suffered injuries, production troubles and coverage issues early in the year.

Punter Reggie Hodges went to field a snap during a training camp drill while backed up in his own end zone. After Hodges jumped, he immediately fell to the field, curled up to protect himself from getting stepped on and clutched for his ankle. As medical tests later revealed, Hodges suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and was lost for the year.

The team signed Richmond McGee as Hodges’ replacement, but that turned into a short-term solution as McGee suffered a season-ending back injury during the first game of the year and was placed on injured reserve. In McGee’s absence, the Browns signed veteran Brad Maynard to punt and serve as the holder on kicks.

Two-time Pro Bowl long snapper Ryan Pontbriand struggled with his snaps and was let go by the franchise after the loss at Cincinnati in late November. After his snap against the St. Louis Rams caromed off the leg of Alex Mack and contributed to a missed field goal in the one-point loss, Pontbriand skidded a snap to Maynard on an attempt over 50 yards at Cincinnati. Kicker Phil Dawson missed the kick in Cincinnati and the next week, broke in rookie long snapper Christian Yount.

Outstanding Performer:

In his exit interview with the media following the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dawson said he believed it was his best year as a professional.

The franchise leader with 276 career field goals made, Dawson moved into second place on the team’s all-time scoring list and has 1,155 points over his 13 years with the club.

In 2011, Dawson kicked a single-season personal best seven field goals of 50 or more yards. His seven field goals of at least 50 yards were tied for the most in the league this season and were one shy of the league record. In 1995, Morten Anderson, then with Atlanta, and in 2008, Detroit’s Jason Hansen both kicked eight field goals of 50 or more yards.

Key Number:

Five.

After not having a 40-yard return in 2010, Joshua Cribbs had five returns of over 40 yards and all of those led to Browns scores this season. His 51-yard kickoff return against Cincinnati, as well as his 52-yard kickoff and 43-yard punt return in Indianapolis led to touchdowns. Cribbs’ 63-yard kickoff return in Houston led to a field goal. Cribbs’ final “explosive” play was an 84-yard punt return touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 24.

What to Watch For:

The veteran leadership of the special teams unit.

Cribbs, a two-time Pro Bowler and alternate in 2011, regained his playmaking ability on special teams.

Cribbs currently ranks seventh all-time with 10,534 career return yards and passed Kevin Williams (9,604) early this season. He is seventh in kickoff return yards (8,837), fifth in return touchdowns (11) and first in kickoff return touchdowns (eight).

One more return touchdown would tie Cribbs with Dante Hall and Browns Legend Eric Metcalf for third-most in NFL history.

Of the 81 punts Maynard kicked this season, 32 landed inside the 20-yard line. In the team’s final game of the season, Maynard equaled Bryan Wagner’s team record from the 1989 season with 32 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Maynard was one touchback in the season-finale against the Steelers away from becoming the first NFL punter with more than 50 punts to not record a touchback since Ray Criswell launched 68 punts without one in 1988 with Tampa Bay.

Position Reviews are presented by Giant Eagle. The Official Supermarket of the Cleveland Browns.

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